Seventh grader not allowed to join school football team - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Seventh grader not allowed to join school football team

(Source: ACLU of TN) (Source: ACLU of TN)

American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee sent a letter on June 10 to the West Carroll Special School District advocating for a female student to be able to join the junior football team.

Thalia Townsend, a rising seventh grader at West Carroll Junior/Senior High School, was denied by the school district to play football solely because of her gender.

“Schools cannot exclude girls from the sport of their choice based solely on their gender. The Fourteenth Amendment protects girls from such unequal treatment,” said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director. “For over 40 years, courts have made it clear that if a girl wants to play football and there is not an equivalent football team for girls, she must be allowed equal access to the boys' team.”

Townsend has played left tackle for two years in the local community football team. She was turned away by the coach from the initial May 11th football meeting at West Carroll.

When her mother, Michelle Larsen, contacted the football coach it was the Director of Schools Eric Williams that told her it was against the school's policy to allow girls to play football.

“My daughter is already a football player,” said Larsen. “She has practiced, competed and earned her place among her male peers. There is no justification for stopping her from playing the sport she loves. We aren't asking for any special treatment. Just an equal opportunity for her to keep playing.”

The school backed their decision to exclude Townsend from the football team by arguing that under Title IX, they don't have to include her because the school offered softball for the girls.

“I've never had a problem on the field because I'm a girl. Most of the time the boys don't even realize I'm a girl until I take my helmet off,” Townsend said. “I just want a chance to play for my school because I love the game.”

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